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Pemberton making first college start

TIFFIN — It’s not just the start of the college football season Saturday for John Paul Pemberton. It’s the start of his college career.

The former Ironton Fighting Tigers first team All-Ohio lineman will make his first collegiate start when the NCAA Division II Tiffin Dragons host Ferris State.

“I’m a little nervous,” said Pemberton.

“I know it’s going to be faster than when I played in high school, but the game has slowed down now from (college) practices. We’re going into the toughest conference in Division II.”

Pemberton was redshirted last season to give him four more full seasons. Although it was difficult to practice and never play, Pemberton said it has helped him improve.

“The first year of sitting out, I got to know the system, then I went through spring ball and I got to know the other starters. It helped me coming into (fall) camp I knew what to expect,” said Pemberton.

The 6-foot-1, 288-pound lineman will play nose guard and tackle in the Tiffin defensive scheme. He knows it will be grueling in the trenches.

“(Ferris State) has some new guys, but they have a guy who is 6-1, 290. Their whole front line is 280 or more. It’s rough on the body, especially at nose guard where you’re getting double teamed almost every play,” said Pemberton.

First-year head coach David Walkosky has been impressed with the young lineman he plans to use up and down the defensive front.

“John Paul is a fierce competitor. He gets off the block well and comes at the ball hard. He’s been working his butt of and it’s time to reap the rewards,” said Wolkosky.

“We’re starting in a 3-4 and then we go crazy. He has the strength to bull rush, the speed to be a looper, and the quickness to be a twister.”

Walkosky took over the program in the late spring when the former head coach Nate Cole abruptly resigned. Walkosky, a native of Steubenville, was an assistant at Washington State last year following a stint at Toledo.

While at Toledo, Walkosky recruited Pemberton in hopes of bringing him to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference program.

“I tried to get (Pemberton) to walk-on at Toledo. I’m glad he didn’t. This is the best Division II conference in the NCAA and our goal is to win a national title. John Paul can help us do that,” said Walkosky.

Pemberton will also be the longsnapper. He gave credit to his former Ironton teammate and current Youngstown State center Andy Colegrove.

“It’s new and different. I was always the backup to Andy. He taught me how to do it, so I threw it in the mix up here and I did it and they let me longsnap,” said Pemberton.